Second Berlin period (1929-1933)

On 6 April 1929 Sergei and Elisabeth Bortkiewicz left Vienna and moved to their beloved Berlin. Shortly before his leave to Berlin Bortkiewicz asked the composer Joseph Marx (1888-1964) in vain to help him to find a position as pianoteacher in Vienna. In 1928 one of Bortkiewicz’s high points in his pianoworks was published: Ein Roman für Klavier opus 35. This is a cycle of eight pianopieces which form together a story: ‘Begegnung’, ‘Plauderei’, ‘Erwachende Liebe’, ‘Auf dem Ball’, ‘Enttäuschung’, ‘Vorwürfe’, ‘Ein Brief’ and ‘Höchstes Glück’.

Chihiro Ishioka plays Bortkiewicz’s Ein Roman, opus 35

In Berlin he composed his Russisches Rhapsodie opus 45for piano and orchestra and his opera Akrobaten opus 50. Bortkiewicz had great financial problems during his life in Berlin. The economic crises and the rise of the Nazi regime made his financial situation every day more serious. Many times he asked Hugo van Dalen for financial help.

sergei bortkiewicz en hugo van dalen (1938)

Hugo van Dalen and Sergei Bortkiewicz in 1938 at Van Dalen’s home in The Hague

In a letter dated 21 April 1933 Bortkiewicz wrote to Hugo van Dalen: “After the Hitler revolution allmost all opera producers, many orchestra directors and others have been removed and now new people have come in with whom I must negotiate again regarding my opera. […] Dear friend, forgive me my incessant complaining and asking. You are an angel and you understand how difficult, how unpleasant it feels to me to keep begging. If I did not have my poor wife, I would have put an end to my life long ago. […] Although I have a good reputation in Germany, I still am a foreigner and now one is looked upon very unfavorably if one is not a genuine German, and there are even fewer opportunities for any position […]”. Bortkiewicz was persecuted by the Nazi’s and his name struck off programs, which forced him to leave Berlin. He decided to return to Vienna in 1933.


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